February 11, 2013
As I am sure you all know, Pope Benedict announced today that he will be resigning his Petrine ministry at the end of this month. There are a number of questions that arise from something like this happening and so, anticipating some of them let's try to bring some light to what is going on.
Why did the Pope step down?
Pope Benedict cited his age as being the reason for stepping down. He feels that he no longer has the necessary strength to adequately exercise his ministry.
Does this happen often?
Simple answer... nope, Pope Benedict is the first Pope in over 600 years to resign.
So what happens now with Pope Benedict?
Well, according to the Vatican Spokesman the Pope will eventually move to a monastery within the Vatican grounds. Until February 28, 8:00 p.m. Rome time Pope Benedict will be Pope, after that he goes back to being Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
What happens between February 28 and the time we have a new Pope? Who is in charge of the Church?!?!
No reason to panic. This period is treated the same as if the Pope had died. That means that while we wait for the election of a new Pope, the College of Cardinals takes up governance of the universal Church while, Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican Chamberlain (he is also the Secretary of State for the Vatican) will be in charge of the administration of the Vatican.
O.K., so how do we get a new Pope?
The Dean of the College of Cardinals is in charge of organizing the conclave to elect a new Pope. Once a date is set, all Cardinals under the age of 80, gather together for Mass and then meet in the Sistine Chapel. Once they are there the voting begins. The Cardinals vote twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. All votes are written in paper and are secret. After the votes are cast, they are counted. Once there is a two third's majority we have a new Pope. The ballots are burned after each voting session and by tradition the smoke is altered to be either black or white. If the smoke is black then the voting was inconclusive, if white we have a winner.
What if no one gets a 2/3 majority?
If after 13 days no one gets the 2/3 majority then there is a runoff between the top two candidates with the 2/3 majority rule still applying.
All I ask is that in this time of transition we pray, that the wisdom of the Holy Spirit guide our Cardinals to elect a holy man to continue the ministry of Peter. Lord we put our trust in you!
God Bless, and pray for whoever our new Pope will be.
- Fr. Alejandro